Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in what is now a daily press briefing on COVID-19, announced "drastic action" to curb the spread of the virus. Cuomo banned all unnecessary gatherings and required all non-essential workers to stay at home.

Cuomo also announced the cancelation of all non-critical elective surgery, expressed a desire to work with manufactures and offer incentives to manufacture surgical masks and other necessities to keep health care workers safe.

State and local officials urge people to stay home, remain calm

ALBANY — As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York topped 7,000 Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced drastic actions to stop the spread of the virus that include canceling all unnecessary gatherings and requiring non-essential workers to stay home.

State and local officials have taken unprecedented steps to halt the spread of COVID-19, and those efforts continued Friday with what Cuomo called “drastic action.” Cuomo announced the measures as part of an executive order aimed codifying what officials have been recommending for weeks in what is now a daily press briefing.

Cuomo said the executive order would put New York “on pause,” calling the measures “policies that assure uniform safety for everyone.” The order calls on 100 percent of non-essential workers to stay home

“When I talk about the most drastic action we can take, this is the most drastic action we can take,” the governor said. “Only essential businesses will be functioning. People can work at home, but only essential businesses can have workers commuting.”

Cuomo’s latest round of restrictions is scheduled to go into effect at 8 p.m. Sunday.

There are now more than 7,100 individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 2,950 new positives announced Friday. The 7,100 positive cases is a nearly 17-fold increase from the 421 positive cases in the state recorded a week ago on March 13.

Businesses that do remain in operation are required to implement rules that facilitate social distancing of at least six feet. Cuomo noted grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, delivery drivers and gas stations employees are all considered essential.

Friday’s executive order also calls for non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size and for any reason to be cancelled or postponed, people to maintain a six-feet distance form one another in public and avoid activities — Cuomo used basketball as an example — in which people come in close contact.

Sick individuals are also required to stay at home unless receiving medical care and only after a tele-health visit.

“These are not helpful hints,” Cuomo said. “This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions and they will be enforced.” 

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow, who earlier this week praised Cuomo’s response to the coronavirus threat, urged the community to heed the warnings of the state government and health professionals.

“At this point the message is to stay home as much as you possibly can,” Barlow said. “There is no real reason to be going out to travel or do activities that aren’t absolutely required. We know the rules, we know the precautions, we should all understand why we need to do this and we should take it all very, very seriously.”

Oswego County Administrator Phil Church, who is also acting as the county’s emergency management director, also encouraged people to “stay calm and follow the state’s executive orders” and “to not hoard” groceries and other items. 

“We’re asking people to stay calm, take this seriously and know that all response agencies of the county are singularly focused on this and working to protect the public health and safety,” Church said. “We’d also like, as the governor said, young people to realize that although they may be fine they can be a carrier and effect someone else who is vulnerable.”

Church said individuals can visit the county website for information on how to prevent exposure in your home and in the community.

The county is activating an emergency operations center, Church said, and key response agencies have been meeting each morning to coordinate. He said in the coming days officials would move toward remote meetings to limit the number of key decision makers and response officials in close contact with one another.

Cuomo’s executive order imposed stricter restrictions on seniors above the age of 70 or individuals with compromised immune systems. Those restrictions include remaining indoors, going outside only for solitary exercise, pre-screening visitors and aides by taking their temperatures and not visiting households with multiple people.

Barlow said taking unnecessary risks at this time is “simply not worth it,” and could put yourself, your family and many others at higher risk.

“Be responsible, be thoughtful and just stay home,” Barlow.

City and county government have made significant changes to operations as the virus spreads across New York state. Officials have closed some facilities and made others available by appointment only as part of the effort to have non-essential workers stay at home.

Church said the county is “discouraging people from coming to county buildings,” adding “if we can get your businesses taken care of remotely that’s what we want to do.”

In addition to the county Health Department, Church said essential services, such as the landfills and transfer stations, would continue to operate.

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